Types of Physical Activity
There are three basic components of physical activity. Each area helps your body in different ways. So mix your week up with activities from each category. Not only will it make your workouts more interesting, it will help work different muscles, too.
Any activity that raises your heart rate to an elevated, but safe level and keeps it there for a period for time can be considered an aerobic activity. Also known as cardiovascular or endurance activity, it is one of the best things you can do to improve your health.
- Helps strengthen your heart and lungs and makes them more efficient
- Improves levels of “good” cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Burns calories and keeps weight down
- Increases brain function
- Improves mood
Examples: walking, biking, hiking, jogging, dancing, vacuuming and sweeping
What To Do
- Start with a warm-up: The first few minutes should be relatively easy to give your body a chance to get used to the new activity.
- Listen to your body: Keep your pace comfortable. Allow for a 5–10 minute cool-down at the end.
- Push yourself: Start to boost intensity by increasing speed, distance or difficulty.
- Break it up: Fit in activity throughout your day.
- Seize your opportunities: Take the stairs instead of the escalator, park farther away from your destinations or get off the bus a stop or two earlier. Small adjustments to your day are the easiest way to get physically active.
- Keep it fun: Choose activities you like and look for ways to spice them up. Invite a friend for a walk or listen to music while you exercise. The more you enjoy your routine, the more likely you are to stick with it.
This involves working your muscles against weight or resistance to increase strength. Starting around age 30, muscles strength begins to decrease. Strengthening exercises are important for everyone, especially older adults, to help prevent muscle loss and build new muscle and bone density.
- Builds muscle mass, which increases metabolism so you burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduces pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
- Improves glycemic control for people with diabetes.
- Builds bone density to stave off osteoporosis.
- Increases “good” cholesterol and decreases “bad” cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Strengthens core muscles to alleviate back pain.
Examples: using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or your own body weight
What To Do
- Start with a warm-up: Warm-up your muscles before you begin to strength train. A 5-10 minute brisk walk or brief calisthenics should begin your routine.
- Listen to your body: Incorporate 5–8 exercises–one for each major muscle group (chest, back, legs, arms, shoulders and abdominals). Work your muscles on alternate days so that they have time to recover and grow.
- Pay attention to how each exercise feels: Strength training should challenge your muscles, but never be painful.
- Push yourself: Complete 12–15 repetitions with ease, and then increase intensity. You will get the most benefit from a moderate to vigorous routine. You should strength train 2–3 times each week.
- Learn the technique: To avoid injury, become familiar with the proper technique for each exercise.
- Make it challenging: Find the intensity of an exercise by counting the number of repetitions you can complete. Doing 8–12 repetitions is considered moderate to vigorous. If you can’t complete at least 8, the weight is too heavy; if you can do more than 12, the weight is too light. Keep a log to track the amount of weight and repetitions.
- Schedule it in: Treat your strength training like an appointment. You will be more likely to keep up with your program if you see it on your planner.
Stretching becomes especially more important as you get older. A regular stretching program that works your joints through their full range of motion can help you maintain flexibility and independence.
What To Do
- Start with a warm-up: Stretching cold muscles can cause injury, so always warm up for 5–10 minutes before you start your routine. You can stretch after your warm-up, in between sets during a weight-training program or at the end of your entire workout.
- Listen to your body: Just like a strength-training program, stretching should include at least one exercise for each major muscle group (chest, back, legs, arms, shoulders and abdominals). Hold each stretch for 10–30 seconds.
- Fit it in: Try to fit stretching into your routine every day you work out.